North LC continues to struggle after storms

John Guidroz

North Lake Charles residents gathered at The Foundation House Monday to hear from city and Calcasieu Parish officials on various programs offering assistance for COVID-19, along with hurricane recovery and housing efforts. Some residents criticized U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins for doing little to aid with recovery from Hurricanes Laura and Delta.

Mark Tizano, community development director for the city of Lake Charles, said 24 small businesses were helped by the Small Business Stabilization Fund. It provides a $5,000 forgivable loan to businesses with 20 or fewer employees. The fund is for businesses with low-to moderate-income employees or owners.

The intent was to help at least 70 businesses, but some have yet to reopen since the hurricanes, Tizano said. The program is in its second round, with applications being accepted through Thursday. To sign up, visit cityoflakecharles.com or visit the fifth floor of City Hall.

Tizano also mentioned other programs through Project Build a Future and Catholic Charities that are providing rental and mortgage assistance for those impacted by COVID-19. He said another program by the Lake Charles Memorial Hospital Foundation is offering mental health counseling for those impacted by the virus.

Tizano said the city continues to wait on disaster recovery money from the federal government. He said that money likely won’t be allocated until later in the year.

Devra Ramirez told officials that central and North Lake Charles should receive the funding necessary to recover.

“That’s why we’re here,” she said. “Every time I come to meetings, it’s always about infrastructure and what’s going on. Yet, we still see the same things, nothing, very little.”

Tarek Polite, Calcasieu Parish Human Services director, said a Resource Recovery Fair for Calcasieu and Cameron parishes is set for 9 a.m.-4 p.m. April 9 and 10 at the Civic Center Jean Lafitte Conference Room, 900 N. Lakeshore Drive. Residents can get answers, especially those “who have fallen through the cracks” in terms of getting COVID-19 assistance, he said.

Polite said there is “no appropriate time frame” for when federal dollars will be allocated for the hurricanes. He said officials are optimistic that Congress will appropriate money by the summer. Until then, parish officials are preparing a long-term recovery framework so work can start as soon as that funding is allocated.

“We are getting ready because we know that eventually those dollars are going to come,” he said. “We are going to be prepared.” 

The Human Service Department’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program is also available to help residents with housing and rental expenses. So far, the department has received 414 applications. To apply online, visit calcasieuparish.gov/ERA, or call 721-4033 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

District F City Councilman Craig Marks said Higgins, R-Port Barre, has not addressed the needs of Southwest Louisiana residents impacted by the hurricanes.

“We are struggling here, and everyone knows it,” he said. “We shouldn’t have to reach out. That’s our connection to Washington. He should be here on our behalf. He hasn’t been here.”

Tyrone Glover, a community outreach coordinator for Higgins, who represents Louisiana’s 3rd Congressional district, said the congressman was in Southwest Louisiana the day after Hurricane Laura. He said he will relay the comments to Higgins’ office.””Recovery teamRick Hickman

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